Date of Award

Spring 2-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Dr. Stephen Sherblom

Second Advisor

Dr. Emilie Johnson

Third Advisor

Dr. Rebecca Panagos


Historically people with significant disabilities were restricted to places such as adult activity centers, sheltered workshops, nursing homes, and institutions. Studies have shown the high school drop-out rate for this population is higher than those who are non-disabled. Policy makers concluded that these individuals needed to be better prepared for a successful adult life beyond high school. Individuals with developmental disabilities in the state of Missouri are over two times less likely to be employed than the national average. Laws have been passed to provide supports and services for individuals with disabilities to be as independent as possible. This paper explored the perspectives of a host site employer, parents, agency staff, and young adults with developmental disabilities in their participating experience of a one-year high school transition program with the main goal of employment. The students experienced employment through internships within a health care business setting. I conducted interviews, questionnaires, and observations in order to gain insight into the perspectives from each partner. Research questions included: How does Project SEARCH work? What are the parent perspectives on why and how Project SEARCH has prepared their children with developmental disabilities for competitive employment? What are the student perspectives on why and how Project SEARCH has prepared them for competitive employment? What are the business host site’s employer and other agency staff perspectives on why and how they have prepared students with developmental disabilities for competitive employment? Findings found within the research were that Project SEARCH was a collaborative effort among various agencies to provide internships in a completely immersed business setting to students with developmental disabilities in iii which the ultimate goal was competitive employment. Parents perceived the program as indispensable to the increase in skill sets that occurred. Students perceived the experience obtained in the program as increasing their self-advocacy and self-confidence skills. By purchasing a license for the Project SEARCH program, the agencies involved have increased the opportunities for young adults with disabilities to obtain job readiness skills that impact the participant for the rest of his or her life. The results indicated although not every intern was employed upon exiting the program, skills beyond measure were obtained due to participation in an immersed workplace setting with specialized instruction in employability skills.


Copyright 2013